EU should de­velop united China stance

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE -

with Chi­nese art, he said re­la­tions be­tween China and most EU mem­bers are vi­brant in terms of trade, in­vest­ment, tourism, ed­u­ca­tion and cul­tural ex­changes.

And many Eu­ro­pean state lead­ers have forged closer per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts, Xi Jin­ping and Li Ke­qiang, as they have deep­ened strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion.

“But when they are to­gether (as the Eu­ro­pean Union), they want the EU to be tough with China,” De­fraigne said. “I think they are play­ing a dou­ble game, and it puts the EU in an ex­tremely un­com­fort­able po­si­tion be­cause of this lack of unity.”

He said the stance freezes the Brus­sels-Bei­jing re­la­tion­ship and means dif­fi­cul­ties can­not be solved.

As a vet­eran of­fi­cial who has worked as a cabi­net head for two Eu­ro­pean com­mis­sion­ers, De­fraigne said the EU’s poor in­ter­ac­tion with China is not the re­sult of its want­ing to cause of­fense but a re­flec­tion of its be­ing “help­less” to unite its mem­bers.

And in the ab­sence of a united front, the EU has re­lied heav­ily upon Wash­ing­ton in for­mu­lat­ing its stances to­ward Bei­jing. He said this means the EU is no longer a sep­a­rate en­tity.

“It is EU-Amer­i­can lead­er­ship,” he con­tended.

There are many ex­am­ples of the EU’s in­abil­ity to make the de­ci­sions needed to move the Brus­sel­sBei­jing re­la­tion­ship for­ward. For years, Brus­sels has failed to lift an arms em­bargo against Bei­jing. It has also failed to grant mar­ket econ­omy sta­tus to China, which is now the world’s sec­ond-big­gest econ­omy.

He said it seems as if Brus­sels is not ready to ful­fill the com­mit­ments it agreed to when Bei­jing was ad­mit­ted to the WTO, some­thing De­fraigne was closely in­volved in while work­ing as cabi­net head for trade com­mis­sioner Pas­cal Lamy.

De­fraigne be­lieves the fact that Brus­sels takes its lead from Wash­ing­ton means it is not able to make “seem­ingly strate­gic de­ci­sions”.

Cur­rently, the EU said a stronger re­la­tion­ship with Wash­ing­ton is high on its agenda. The Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion’s web­site puts the EU-US part­ner­ship among its top 10 pri­or­i­ties.

But De­fraigne said Brus­sels must repri­or­i­tize.

“I am quite op­ti­mistic that Brus­sels will ad­just its mind­set,” he said. “Now, Brus­sels needs to take ac­tion in push­ing for­ward the tri­an­gle re­la­tion­ship of China, the EU and US, un­der the frame­work of global gov­er­nance re­form.”

He sug­gested the con­struc­tion of a new plat­form for dia­log.

“Ide­ally, this should be a sub­mech­a­nism un­der the G20 where lead­ers can meet,” De­fraigne said.

He be­lieves such a mech­a­nism would help Brus­sels bet­ter po­si­tion it­self in the chang­ing global sys­tem and urges both the EU and US to note what is hap­pen­ing with China, at home and abroad.

He said China has done well in im­ple­ment­ing struc­tural re­forms since the 2008-09 fi­nan­cial cri­sis that orig­i­nated on Wall Street, some­thing that led him to call for the re­form of mod­els of cap­i­tal­ism.

But he said the US has found it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment such changes be­cause of po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, mar­ket forces, lob­by­ists and global com­pa­nies that have over­whelmed the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

“I don’t think the EU is un­der pres­sure to the same ex­tent as New York and Wash­ing­ton, but our firms are as big and pow­er­ful as the Amer­i­can ones,” De­fraigne said. “But the key point is there: Pol­i­tics must take over from the mar­kets. When you have bro­ken the sys­tem, you have to change the sys­tem. This is what China is do­ing.”

He said the US and Europe should also fol­low China’s lead in do­mes­tic re­forms and ac­cu­mu­lat­ing public­sec­tor wealth, which is cru­cial for those on the lower rungs of the so­cial lad­der.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, De­fraigne said, it is en­cour­ag­ing that Bei­jing is tak­ing the lead on is­sues, es­pe­cially in push­ing the Paris cli­mate change agree­ment into ef­fect, which will hap­pen on Nov 4.

China is on the way to achiev­ing changes in its eco­nomic growth pat­tern to­ward green com­pet­i­tive­ness, which will pos­i­tively in­flu­ence global en­gage­ment on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, he said.

But he be­lieves some forces in the US are hes­i­tant to im­ple­ment the obli­ga­tions taken on by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

De­fraigne be­lieves China’s ac­tive role in push­ing the Paris agree­ment for­ward is as im­por­tant as its join­ing of the WTO 15 years ago, when it was an ex­ist­ing struc­ture built up by the West for its own ben­e­fit.

“Now, China is among the found­ing ac­tors of this new branch, whose im­pact has be­come more and more im­por­tant,” he said. “For me, China’s join­ing the Paris agree­ment is a good move­ment for the fu­ture and the world.”

And China is ac­tively en­gag­ing in many other ways. It has fairly com­pleted its man­date as a mem­ber of the WTO and proven to be a faith­ful mem­ber.

“And, in ad­di­tion to the Paris agree­ment en­gage­ment, I per­son­ally think China is on the right track,” he said. “We have to en­joy that de­vel­op­ment and now be up to the chal­lenges.


Pierre De­fraigne, a vet­eran think tank econ­o­mist, says the EU should co­or­di­nate its gen­eral strat­egy with China and the US.

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